“We used to hate and destroy one another and refused to associate with people of another race or country. Now, because of Christ, we live together with such people and pray for our enemies.” (St. Justin Martyr)
As we turn to the page to a new Orthodox Liturgical Year, I can’t help but ponder just how much our world needs a “reset button”. Every time we turn on the television, open a newspaper, or log onto social media, we are blasted with stories and opinions which highlight just how far we have fallen as human beings. The devil has no doubt been working overtime to promote racism and division amongst the Body of Christ living in the world.
The Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, shortly after the tragic events that happened in Charlottesville, Virginia, released a wonderful statement, condemning racism in our country:
“The Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America joins people of faith and good will across the United States, Canada, and Mexico, in unequivocally, unreservedly, and unambiguously rejecting the words and actions which perpetrate, support or encourage hatred, violence, racism, white supremacy, white nationalism, or neo-Nazism. As Orthodox Christians, we believe that every human being is a child of God, created in His image and likeness, and therefore we are all brothers and sisters, regardless of our race, nationality, or creed.”
Our reaction to racism, and other works of the devil, is not in doubt as Orthodox Christians. As the Synod stated, we are called to condemn all acts of violence and division to the best of our ability. On top of that, we also have the responsibility to show restraint against condemning those who have fallen prey to the attacks of the devil:
“…we also reject the climate of condemnation of the individuals carrying out these heinous acts. Indeed, Jesus rebuked His disciples when they suggested that He violently retaliate against His enemies. “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them (Luke 9:55-56). The Church offers to all-without exception-not condemnation, but a path to forgiveness and peace in Christ.”
I’m sure everyone has heard the old adage, “Hate the sin, love the sinner”, and this certainly must ring true in our time. Along with the victims of racism, the lost and misguided sheep who commit acts of violence and hatred against others are those who need our prayers the most!
“We reject hatred and violence, and as Orthodox Christians, we are also committed to the ministry of reconciliation and repentance.”
While I am grateful for the response from our Bishops, I couldn’t help but think of what more can be done by our little Church here in Fenton, to help the situation. I then heard a beautiful quote which was shared from the funeral of the late Fr. Leo Copacia, who said: “It is not our job as Orthodox Christians to bring the fallen world into the Church. Rather, it is the Orthodox Christians who should be bringing the Church the fallen world.”
Through our prayers, our responses, our social media posts, and our actions, we have the power to stop the devil from spreading more hatred and violence throughout the world. When possible, respond to “water cooler” conversations or online chats about racism or hate with a quote from your favorite Church Father or from Holy Scripture. When attacked or provoked, do as Christ did by turning the other cheek, and praying for them that hurt you. And most importantly, in your daily prayers, ask our Lord to remind all of His children, that regardless of our race, ethnicity, gender, or creed, we are all made in His Image and Likeness…and are all members of the One Body of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: For ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)